When I entered high school, I had very little coordination and hated to run anywhere except to the JC Penny sale rack but I wanted more than anything to be an athlete. The thought of playing on a team was likely my ticket to “coolville” because being smart was often a lonely place. Basketball was out—too much running. Softball required being outside which in Michigan could mean snow or tropical heat in the same week. I chose volleyball. The lesser-est of all evils!
Initially the practices were killer but I loved the camaraderie and the sense of complete physical exhaustion. I felt so cool or should I say FOXY wearing my knee pads around my ankles with short gym shorts!! I was relieved when I didn’t make the starting line-up, I still got to wear a uniform, but I was TERRIFIED of looking bad and/or making mistake. I sucked at volleyball and as I became more and more uncomfortable, there was only one solution.
I had to quit.
On the car ride home I mentioned to my Dad that I was going to quit and boy did he blow a gasket! He told me, “So if you want to be a quitter, quit. If you stick with it, you will have the satisfaction of knowing you did the right thing. Everyone, even a bench warmer, has an important role on the team.” We never discussed it again. He had put the ball in my court. (Ha, ha, pun intended)
Lesson number one: Finish what you start.*
So what did I do? I finished the season; partially because I didn’t want to disappoint my Dad but also because I knew at 15 that I needed practice honoring my commitments. The only time I played in a real match I somehow managed to score a point for the other team. How in the hell that happened I will never know! Luckily we were so far ahead it didn’t matter. MORTIFIED I made it through the embarrassment.
Lesson number two: Practice laughing at yourself. It sure comes in handy!
Fast forward thirty odd years to the present day and déjà vu. I want to quit before the end of the season!
On my “wouldn’t it be great fun” list, I joined a ladies salsa team. If you ever danced salsa you know that it is a very athletic activity! Not only does the music give me “Happy Feet”, I get the chance to hang out with great ladies (most of whom I could be there mother) and exercise once a week for ninety minutes. The class culminates with two public performances at the end of April.
The problem is, I talk much better than I dance! How do I know? Most of our practices are videotaped! Yeah for technology but @$#%@$ for seeing my mistakes in HD. It feeds the Bitchy Becky voice in my head who squawks, “You really should quit before you make a fool of yourself. You are letting the team down. Girlfriend, it is time to hang up your sequins and exit stage left.”
I love the stage but I don’t love feeling like the weakest member of the team. I also feel fat and old. There, I had to say it out loud. I don’t like how I look, oh my god, because I look like a middle aged woman! (Insert dramatic music here)
Wait a minute! I am a middle aged woman. Defiantly I say, “OK Bitchy Becky, how many middle aged woman do you know that dance on a salsa team?? (silence) I thought so.” I am going to CELEBRATE my courage.
So what if I make a mistake! I will be the first to LAUGH at myself.
“Yes, you could stand to lose at least twenty pounds”, she mutters under her breath. Agreed but LOVINGLY I agree with you. These hips gave birth to two boys, these arms give killer hugs, these breasts get me a fresh cocktail or to the front of the line and this butt, well, I finally have some junk in my trunk.” So there. I am otherwise healthy. Hallelujah.
Bitchy Becky dramatically exits the stage, however is happy to lurk in the shadows.
The dance routine is 3 minutes long. Am I going to stress about a total of six little old minutes of my life? Hell no. I am going to put on my big girl sequins and false eyelashes to finish what I started! Mmmmm, that will feel so good. (I promise you a photo from the big event)
I didn’t thank my Dad for the good advice. Did he know then that this lesson would have such a lasting impression on my life? Hope so. I am sure he is watching down on me saying, “You go girl! You dance pretty damn good for a white girl from Michigan.” If it is not too late, thanks Dad!
Since I didn’t find my ticket to “coolville” in volleyball, I tried musical theater. There I scored a homerun. I was cool with those kids and that is all that really mattered then. Now I’ve found “cool” is being a daring, inspiring middle aged woman. Cool is silly old me.
From the heart,